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Microsoft Vista creates DRM insanity

Comment Microstupid tunnel vision
Thu Aug 04 2005, 12:56
ONE OF the 'features' touted on the new Microsoft Vista (nee Longhorn) operating system is the Protected Video Path - Output Protection Management (PVP-OPM). Nick Farrell does an excellent job outlining it here.

Here is what Microsoft has to say:

New output content protection mechanisms planned for the next version of Microsoft® Windows® codenamed "Longhorn" protect against hardware attacks while playing premium content and complement the protection against software attacks provided by the Protected Environment in Windows Longhorn.

In a nutshell, unless you have a display device that is equipped with specific technology intended to foil recording, the operating system will degrade the image quality so bit for bit copies cannot be made. Sounds good, right? Well, considering that almost NO monitors are currently shipping with this technology, it means that if you want to view a movie off a HD-DVD as it is encoded, or stream HD content from a Blue-Ray disk to a display, the operating system will kill the video outputs and give you nothing. If you are lucky enough, like me, to have a projector that can handle RGB signals or DVI inputs, you can get a signal but it will be run through a downscaler then an upscaler to reduce the quality.

Wow. If I am running a projector or a TV off video outputs I'll see nothing? If I am lucky enough to have a set that will allow for RGB or DVI I can pay for the privilege of having my 720p or 1080i signal degraded to DVD quality or less? Where do I sign? Paid a premium for a graphics card with component output to reap the rewards of that Hi-Def set? Too bad. Isn't technology wonderful?

Because of the nature of the technology, it is very unlikely that some widget or gizmo will be made to make the system compliant outside of buying a new monitor. Outside of cracking the OS (which is bound to happen) to turn off this 'feature', the end user is going to end up on the short end of the stick.

The irony is that most content ripping software doesn't rely on video outputs and they strip the protections on the fly. After that point the content should no longer be viewed as 'premium', and the protection becomes useless.

In the white paper on the Microsoft link above, the folk talk about the problems of open systems (a PC) versus a closed system (discrete DVD player) and how the end user can't upgrade or change the closed system. This seems to be the end goal - create an operating system that will create a closed system.

The fact is that this 'feature' serves to hurt the consumer that Microsoft has targeted with its Media Center OS. Upgrading to the Vista flavour will render that 'Hi-Def' experience in 'Low-Def' detail, and more and more people will choose alternate operating systems. In fact, if I knew that I would be getting lower quality output on anything (there is a section on audio in there) I would be reluctant to install the OS on any machine, work or otherwise. W2k and XP are perfectly adequate, and I prefer to be able to enjoy the movies as they were meant to be seen - at full resolution. µ


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